OVERNIGHT REGULATION: Icy reception for EPA water rule

Welcome to your midweek installment of OVERNIGHT REGULATION, your daily rundown of regulation and enforcement news from around Washington. As always we’ve got all the latest news from the halls of Congress to agencies throughout the federal government, as well as a primer for tomorrow’s must-watch storylines. Click here to sign up for the newsletter: http://bit.ly/1pc6tau

Now, let’s talk about regs.



CHILLY WATERS: Republicans are sounding the alarm on the Environmental Protection Agency's new Waters of the United States rule, which they contend would flood farmers with burdensome new requirements.


Appearing Wednesday before a congressional panel, EPA Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe told lawmakers that contrary to popular opinion his agency is not looking to regulate small ponds, creeks, and even puddles on farm fields around the country, during a House Science Committee hearing Wednesday.

But Republicans, portraying the regulation as a thinly veiled power grab, voiced skepticism about the plan, essentially telling Perciasepe to go take a hike, err swim. http://j.mp/1jer2As

What they’re saying:

"You just have people in the West completely terrified about this," – Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.)

"Rest assured, wet farm lands are not jurisdictional. That means the puddle in my backyard, my roof drains don't have those characteristics, so obviously, they're not cover by the rule," –Perciasepe.

"The problem is the public doesn't trust the EPA, farmers don't trust the EPA not to overreach, Congress doesn't trust the EPA," – Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.).



Congress is in session, though lawmakers eyeing the approaching weekend could try to finish their business and head out of town. Despite the likelihood of another CR, the House will continue to grapple with appropriations, and is expected to approve the Energy and Water spending bill. The Senate is moving toward a vote on the Democrat-backed “sportsmen’s” bill designed to preserve federal land for hunting and other shooting activities (not to mention bolster the pro-gun credentials of some potentially vulnerable Dems in tight races), but a dispute over amendments has made it unlikely that a final vote would happen this week.

President Obama closes out a short jaunt through Colorado and Texas with remarks on the economy and an appearance at a DNC fundraiser in Austin, before returning to the D.C. swamp.

Immigration: Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and members of the Dream Action Coalition will detail a host of steps Obama could take unilaterally to further immigration reform in lieu of congressional action. The briefing is part of an increasingly loud drumbeat of calls for executive action on immigration, with legislation stalled in the House. The event takes place at 9 a.m. at the Capitol Visitors Center.

Primate pet ban: Four years after she was mauled by a pet chimp and had to undergo a face transplant, Charla Nash will hold a presser in support of a bill to ban the interstate trade of primates as pets. Also appearing at the 12:30 p.m. event at the Capitol Visitors Center will be Reps. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.

OMG, GMOs: The fight over genetically modified organisms in the American food supply could be heating back up. Proponents of mandatory labeling of products containing GMOs will hold an event blasting a GOP bill that would effectively block the FDA – and states – from imposing the requirement. The industry-backed bill introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo would instead establish a voluntary labeling system. Rallying against that plan at a 12:30 presser outside the Capitol building will be Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), lead sponsor of the mandatory labeling bill and Ben & Jerry’s co-founder, Jerry Greenfield.


While there is currently no clear path forward for DeFazio’s bill, the legislation got a boost this week from its sole GOP backer, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). Young sent a dear colleague letter imploring his fellow Republicans to back the measure. Young’s ire is directed toward genetically altered salmon (derided by critics as “Frankenfish”) that he said could undermine the fishing industry in his home state.

“All consumers should be able to make decisions they feel confident in, and when it comes to salmon they should be able to see whether their salmon is Frankenfish or not,” he wrote,



The Obama administration plans to issue 125 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Thursday's edition of the Federal Register.

-The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will look at new flight simulation training devices that would help pilots practice flying through adverse situations, such as bad weather conditions or mechanical problems with the plane.

The FAA says these new simulators would give new pilots more experience flying a plane that stalls in the air, freezes over with ice, or takes off and lands in heavy crosswinds.

"The proposed changes would ensure that the training and testing environment is accurate and realistic," the agency wrote. http://j.mp/1n8pfYG

-The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will remove a requirement that truck drivers print and sign paper copies of records indicating how many hours they work each day. But the waiver will only apply to truck drivers who use electronic records instead. http://j.mp/1xTyrs9

-The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) will look at improving the safety features for the back bumpers on trucks, in hopes of curtailing the dangers for cars that collide with big rigs. But the rules would not apply to the front bumpers on these trucks. http://j.mp/1k6guyk

-The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will issue new rules for exporting and importing nuclear materials in an effort to align U.S. standards with international controls. http://j.mp/1n8p0Np

-Two federal agencies will protect loggerhead sea turtles by designating a critical habitat for them along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) say the rules will protect them from extinction. http://j.mp/1jeyThl



GUNFIGHT: The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence filed a lawsuit challenging a Kansas statute claiming to void federal firearm regulations.  Kansas argues that the federal government’s pursuit of tighter restrictions violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. The suit, filed in federal district court, claims the state law is trumped by the Supremacy Clause. http://j.mp/1zpDJx9

TIGHTENING PURSESTRINGS: A House Appropriations subcommittee advanced legislation that would dramatically cut the EPA’s budget and block a host of proposed regulations. http://j.mp/1r9ikDS

BORDER CRISIS: The Justice Department is reprioritizing cases, reassigning immigration judges and asserting the authority to appoint new ones, as the agency scrambles to respond to the deluge of migrant children pouring across the southwest border. http://j.mp/1zpEyGs

POT POLICY: The Obama administration is refusing to soften its stance against marijuana, despite the drug’s legalization in Colorado and Washington and the president’s own stated views: http://j.mp/1kFcXHs

SEA TURTLES will receive new protections along the southeast coast of the U.S., where federal authorities are designating what ocean conservation groups are calling the largest ever critical habitat for these threatened creatures. The protections go into effect in 30 days. http://j.mp/1k6AuRp



685: The miles of beachfront in which loggerhead sea turtles will be protected in what would the largest ever habitat of its kind established along the Southeast coast.

88: The number of beaches included, according to the Associated Press. http://j.mp/1xU4Kaw

200,000: The number of square miles of ocean off the coast in which these sea turtles will be protected. 

10,000: The number of female loggerhead sea turtles that nest on Florida beaches each year, according to FWS. http://j.mp/1w2tOsW



"We need to do a better job of explaining the rule," -- Perciasepe on confusion surrounding the EPA's Waters of the United States rule.


We’ll endeavor to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill’s Regulation page early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, via bgoad@thehill.com or tdevaney@thehill.com. And follow us at @ben_goad and @timdevaney.